Your first instinct might be to put a muzzle on them. Their plotting to get ahead (possibly at your expense) can cause you to defend against their political ploys. But if you fight them, you may drive them to quit, which would leave you searching for equally stellar performers later.
Here are smarter ways to motivate rising stars:
Dangle carrots. Most ambitious workers crave instant gratification. They clamor for feedback (preferably praise) and thrive on rewards and recognition for a job well done.
By holding out prizes, such as cash bonuses, coveted office space and other status-oriented perks, you can feed their need for advancement. Keep raising the bar so that they do not grow complacent.
Invest in them. You may assume that the last thing you want to do with career climbers is to raise their profile (say, by having them give a big speech at a trade show or serving as your firm’s representative to the press or public). After all, the more you encourage them to mingle at conferences, the more exposure they’ll have to headhunters and rival employers.
But if you don’t give them a wide berth to tap training and networking opportunities, then you’re almost sure to lose them. They’ll figure they have everything to gain by job-hopping. Your willingness to invest in their growth can not only make them more valuable contributors, but over the long haul it may build loyalty.
Stay fresh. Fast-trackers don’t want to hear about “paying dues” or “sacrificing for the team.” They live by today’s changing rules where stock options can produce 27-year-old millionaires. Don’t cling to outmoded models of motivation and expect others to accept them.